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[Poetry] Living - Harold Monro (1879-1932)

An influential figure to a new generation of poets in the Modernist movement of the early 20th century.

Harold Monro was an English poet born in Brussels. In 1912 he founded one of the first English poetry magazines: The Poetry Review.

In 1913 he opened up a Bookshop in Bloomsbury London that was highly respected and a hub for poets to congregate and share ideas. A year later he was summoned to fight in the first world war, upon his return playing a vital role in helping many famous poets bring their work before the public and was an influential figure in the Modernist Poetry movement, a literary collective inspired by French Symbolism a return to spirituality, imagination, and dreams, admist a rapidly changing world, using poetry as a language to convey the ethos of the time he lived.

His poem 'Living' is a powerful ode to a celebration of life's rapture, expressed through the lens of his reality in which he danced with death.


Slow bleak awakening from the morning dream Brings me in contact with the sudden day. I am alive – this I. I let my fingers move along my body. Realization warns them, and my nerves Prepare their rapid messages and signals. While Memory begins recording, coding, Repeating; all the time Imagination Mutters: You’ll only die.

Here’s a new day. O Pendulum move slowly! My usual clothes are waiting on their peg. I am alive – this I. And in a moment Habit, like a crane, Will bow its neck and dip its pulleyed cable, Gathering me, my body, and our garment, And swing me forth, oblivious of my question, Into the daylight – why?

I think of all the others who awaken, And wonder if they go to meet the morning More valiantly than I; Nor asking of this Day they will be living:   What have I done that I should be alive? O, can I not forget that I am living?   How shall I reconcile the two conditions: Living, and yet – to die? Between the curtains the autumnal sunlight With lean and yellow finger points me out; The clock moans: Why? Why? Why? But suddenly, as if without a reason, Heart, Brain, and Body, and Imagination All gather in tumultuous joy together, Running like children down the path of morning To fields where they can play without a quarrel: A country I’d forgotten, but remember, And welcome with a cry. O cool glad pasture; living tree, tall corn, Great cliff, or languid sloping sand, cold sea, Waves; rivers curving; you, eternal flowers, Give me content, while I can think of you: Give me your living breath! Back to your rampart, Death.

Portrait of Harold Monro (1923)

- Psychic Garden


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